AMAZON GO, the world's first supermarket with no checkouts of any kind, has opened in Seattle.
The experiment, which has been in closed testing with Amazon employees over the last year, uses cameras to identify each customer and the products they buy. It had been hoped that it would become open to all much sooner, but the tech wasn't quite right.
The customers are identified by scanning the Amazon app to gain entry to the store, and the final total is taken via their Amazon account.
The ceiling-mounted cameras work with sensors on the shelves of the store and can sense and record when an item has been taken, and indeed if it has been put back.
Issues ahead of launch including the cameras not recognising different customers of similar builds (yeah, we know, we're all fat to a computer) and children putting things on the highest shelf they can reach, not the correct one and confusing the system.
Amazon Go is the third foray into retail bricks and mortar, following Amazon Books which has over a dozen shops in the US now, and of course the purchase of the Whole Foods chain which it bought for £10.7bn. The book chain works on a basis of selling at online prices to Prime members, and retail prices to everyone else, thus making it a good hook to get people onto its other offerings.
Currently, as with so much of Amazon business, Amazon Go will operate separately, and there are apparently no plans to roll out the Amazon Go tech in any other locations.
The BBC reports that, at present, almost all of the $1.28bn profits Amazon has made from physical retail comes from the established Whole Foods business, which has been running since the 1970s and now has 460+ stores in the US, Canada and select locations in the UK. It also began offering Whole Foods ranges in the online business from the day that the deal closed.
But although the retail business isn't making a huge amount of extra revenue for Amazon, it's an ideal playground for out of the box ideas like this, which could well end up being rolled out at a later date, or even licenced to other chains.
After all - someone has to save bricks and mortar retail, so why not the company that helped break it? µ
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